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'Non-Stop': Going, and Going . . .

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 10, 2000

   


    'Non-Stop' Tomoro Taguchi takes a licking and keeps on ticking in "Non-Stop." (Shooting Gallery)
Sisyphus had his rock and that damned mountain to push it up, but Yasuda, Aizawa and Takeda are luckier: They have one another, even if the event they're embroiled in is as pointless as Sisyphus's.

They are chasing one another in the intellectual-farce-cum-Yakuza film "Non-Stop," and by the end, I couldn't remember why they're chasing one another and I doubt Sabu could either. Sabu is the writer and the director, and it was his idea to set these three in motion through the streets of Tokyo for about 12 hours until each has forgotten his own motive as well as his identity.

Yasuda (Tomoro Taguchi) is an amateur thief desperate to break into the big time but incapable of the most trifling crime. He means to rob a bank, but before he does that he has to shoplift a mask; in the store, the clerk turns heroic, grabs his gun and starts chasing him.

Alas, the clerk, Aizawa (Diamond Yukai), isn't just a clerk. He's a former rock musician who owes money to the Yakuza (the Japanese variant on Mafia) because of his drug addiction; he's high on heroin when the shoplifting goes down, which explains his heroism and his pursuit until he runs into . . .

Takeda (Shinichi Tsutsumi), a young Yakuza ashamed because he failed to prevent the murder of his partner and his boss and, worse still, was unable to commit ritual suicide in the aftermath of that catastrophe. When the clerk runs into him, it turns out the clerk owes him money for drugs. The clerk once more takes off after the robber; the yakuza takes off after the clerk.

It gets still curiouser. Even the gun has a back story. It was provided by the Yakuza to the robber for his crime, but taken by the clerk from the robber. Just to make things wackier still, the gun was originally stolen from a cop who happens to be on the anti-gang squad and he is in quest of the gun and the gangs. Meanwhile, the gangs themselves become involved.

The final reality of the movie isn't a plot so much as a diagram: You have three individuals at the center, chasing one another. Around them you have three institutions (two gangs and the police squad) chasing the three men.

Happy yet? More fun awaits: At odd moments, each of the three running men will encounter some form of outside stimulation, and it will call up a fantasy or memory that expresses his character. For example, a young lady happens to bend over to pick up something as each races by, giving them a peek at what they can't have: The robber recalls his own failed romantic life, the clerk imagines a chaste flirtation, and the gangster, clearly the most predatory, conjures a sexual encounter.

On and on it goes, somewhat reminiscent of "Run Lola Run" but somehow even less consequential while more frenetic. One thing I did like: It had a happy ending, at least by Japanese standards, which are somewhat more complicated than American. Yes, a happy ending, and pay no attention, please, to that big massacre you just witnessed.

"Non-Stop" (80 minutes, at the Cineplex Odeon Foundry) is not rated, quite bloody and contains at least one sex scene.

 

Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


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